Author Chetan Bhagat has things to say about the Olympics in his recent sports editorial for the Times of India, and they are not good.

In the opinion piece uploaded on August 14, titled, Congrats to athletes but Olympics is no place to look for national validation, the writer delves deep into the fact that the Olympics are organised by a private entity and the impact that has on the credibility of the competition.

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He talks about how being a private entity can give room for the International Olympic Committee or the IOC and all affiliated parties to remain opaque. “National anthems are played, but this private entity conducts and makes revenue from the event,” wrote he. The athletes may get prestige but not a considerable chunk of the compensation, doomed to find themselves menial jobs later in life.

He also talks about money, how host cities lose money while the IOC makes revenue and how countries that are rich will have an unfair edge; they will be able to resort to “arm-twisting”, citing the Russian contingent this year as an example and would have better infrastructure to be able to train athletes.

He also expresses his worry about player abuse. With Simon Biles leaving tournaments owing to mental health issues, it is apparent that pressures are high for all in the competition.

“As we in India too strive for more medals, we should be careful to not become a child abuse factory. The training regimen and pressure in certain sports such as gymnastics is so gruelling that we wouldn’t allow animals to be treated that way. You may argue that animals can’t consent but do you think a 13-year-old can?” he wrote.

“All this for what? So the IOC can get richer, viewers get some entertaining cartwheels to watch and we can feel proud in Olympic week? How do we define the boundary of what is true training for a sport, and what might be too much for a young child? We need to be especially careful about over competitiveness in India. We already push our students too hard. A 100% cutoff in Delhi University is an example of how competition turns into insanity. I hope we don’t get that same insanity into sports. All for a medal from a privately managed entity conducting sporting competitions for revenue-earning content?”

One of his six points also were “Peak performance vs big picture: Medals are great, but not a true picture of athletic and fitness ability in a country. The US has won the most Olympic medals but it is one of the most obese nations in the world. What’s more important? A few super-fit athletes or a reasonably fit entire nation? Where would you deploy your limited sports budget?”

“Do watch and celebrate the Olympics. They aren’t evil. But also realise that they have real issues. And they are certainly no place to look for national validation. Congrats to the winners, once again,” Chetan Bhagat affirms in the closing.


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